Why I Don’t Feel Frugal Most of the Time

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I used to be extremely frugal, by necessity. Now that I earn more I don't feel frugal all the time and I'm ok with that as it adds value to my life.

There was a time in my life when I used to be extremely frugal, but I don’t feel frugal these days. I remember being in graduate school in the dead of winter in Virginia huddled in front of a space heater because I didn’t want to turn the actual heat on. I wouldn’t buy an article of clothing unless it was under $10. I tried to eat on $50 a week. I was broke beyond broke, and I had the frugal living habits to match it.

These days, I have moved far beyond my $14,000 a year graduate student income. I got married, had two children and run my own business. There are still parts of my life that are frugal, like how I don’t have a TV and the fact that I eat most of my meals at home.

However, I’ve noticed that when it comes to just about every other aspect of my life, I don’t feel frugal most of the time. Here’s why:

I Often Spend on Convenience


Just to give you an example of how I spend on convenience, I buy diapers and wipes at the Rite Aid that’s down the street from my house instead of endlessly price searching and comparing coupons. I used cloth diapers for the entire first year of my twins’ lives, but I started using disposable diapers after that.

Additionally, I recently returned to New Jersey after spending a week at home with my family in Louisiana. Because flying with twin toddlers is brutal, my husband and I tried to find a way to make the return flight back to New Jersey better than it was on the flight there.

We noticed that we could change our flight to be direct if I spent $55 and used 10,000 of the points we’d earned on my Southwest credit card. Let me tell you, it was the best $55 we’ve spent yet. It was completely and totally worth it, and I’m happy that I’m not so frugal that I won’t spend money to make my life just a bit easier. Let’s face it; anything you can do to make flying with two toddlers easier is a good idea. (Editor’s note: having three little ones of our own, at times two of them as toddlers, Mrs. Frugal Rules and I heartily agree. 🙂 )

I Eat Expensive Food


I go back and forth when it comes to being frugal with my groceries. It seems like all year I’ve tried several different things to keep costs down but these days, I don’t stress about it. Before my children turned 1, I could have a month where my grocery spending stayed under $250, but it was a diet full of soup and red beans and rice.

Then, I started buying very high quality food for my kids that got very expensive. I then went on a crock pot regiment for a while where I was able to bring costs down again, and now I am back to purchasing organic fruit and eggs and grass fed meat.

This is all a part of my commitment to leading a healthier lifestyle. I’ve always been thin but I haven’t always felt my best, and after struggling with low energy levels this year, I’ve noticed that I feel great when I eat high quality, whole foods. So, when I go to the store and I put the most expensive eggs and milk in my cart, I don’t feel frugal at all but I also don’t feel guilty.

I used to be extremely frugal, by necessity. Now that I earn more I don't feel frugal all the time and I'm ok with that as it adds value to my life.

I Outsource My Life


As I’ve written about before, I have a housekeeper who comes to my house twice a month. I also have a nanny for my children, who costs almost as much as my rent living just outside of New York City (which is becoming more and more common in expensive areas according to a recent ABC News article.)

However, hiring someone to help me watch and nurture my children has allowed me to grow my business even more while still having the flexibility to see them when I come out of my home office during the day. In sum, she is worth every penny.

Ultimately, writing this post is hard because for years I prided myself on how frugal I was, how I rarely bought clothes and how I could survive eating vegetable soup every day. However, I’ve realized that because my business has grown and my income has increased many times over since I first started it, I can allow myself quality food, quality help and the occasional convenience cost.

When it comes to earning more or spending less, I’ve always been a fan of the earning more side of the equation. However, although I might not be as frugal as I was before, I still enjoy digging furniture out the trash and refinishing it, buying clothes at thrift stores and not spoiling my children with gifts. It’s just that certain categories, like the ones above, are definitely creeping up, and at this point, I have no intention to cut back on them.


Have you become less frugal or more frugal as time as gone on? What are some budget categories you have no problem spending more on?

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Catherine Alford is the go to personal finance expert for parents who want to better their finances and take on a more active financial role in their families.


  • Hannah says:

    As your career grows, it will make more and more sense to outsource. It’s not that cutting back is impossible, it’s that it’s not worthwhile if you’re more than outearning what it costs to “replace” yourself.

  • Money Beagle says:

    I don’t think it’s possible to be frugal in every area of your life because there are so many. It’s important to be frugal in many and to pick the ones that make the most impact on your wallet while making the least impact on your everyday life. It sounds like you’ve worked hard to come up with a balance that works for you.

  • Robin @ The Thrifty Peach says:

    I’m the same way with food now. I used to worry about keeping costs down, but now I buy whatever we want at the grocery store. It’s always cheaper to eat at home, and I want my family to eat quality food, even if it’s always going to be more expensive. I think it’s easily justified then.

  • Kara @ Money Saving Maven says:

    I don’t feel guilty buying high quality, healthy food for my family. I look at it as an investment really!
    Good for you for spending a little to make that flight direct! 🙂

  • Kim says:

    I also feel like we are not very frugal, but I also think that our lifestyle at this point does not include mindless spending so when we do spend, it is generally on something that we need or that adds value. Luckily, we have more than enough money coming in to live on, so because we aren’t having to scrape by to afford groceries and necessities, my time becomes the most valuable commodity. I don’t feel bad for spending money to earn more time.

  • Harmony @ CreatingMyKaleidoscope says:

    We struggle with spending on groceries, because we need to keep expenses down in order to pay off debt, but we want the family to eat healthy. We will purchase some more expensive items, like organic milk for the kids, but there are many cheaper, generic things in our cart as well. It’s all about balance.

  • Carole says:

    I don’t think you need to follow every frugal tip you’ve ever heard of to be frugal over all. I think mindful spending is what’s important. Keeping one’s sanity obviously is essential, too.

  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde says:

    I have definitely become more frugal with time; however, knowing my old ways, it wasn’t difficult to get to that point since I spent like crazy in my investment banking days. I am with you, though, I still splurge on my housekeeper and it’s a payment I gladly make twice a month and have made for the past 7 years. She definitely makes it easier for me to earn more and to that end, she’s definitely worth it.

  • Sarah says:

    Great post, Cat!!

    I definitely do not consider myself “frugal” anymore. I try to save where I can, but being frugal is no longer a necessity. We have two full-time jobs and two side hustles, so we save plenty of money even though some months we spend more than we should. Honestly, I’m all about enjoying life lately. And (to me), sometimes that means spending money!! 🙂

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach says:

    I’m at a crossroads with frugality in one area: outsourcing. I know I could spend roughly $100 per month (or a little more) and maaaaaybe get some more traffic, or I can really, really get kick ass frugal and not worry about that kind of stuff, and just enjoy my blog as is. I think those kind of things are always tough calls to make because there is a possibility of ROI, but not always…

  • Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor says:

    Fresh produce and other healthy foods are definitely worth it to us. I think I was vitamin-deficient in college because I was so frugal with groceries!

    I believe people shouldn’t feel guilty spending on what they value. Frugality can’t be the highest priority in a well-rounded, fulfilling life. Though we can often spend less than we think we can. I agree that your $55 direct flight is a great idea; we are also willing to spend more on that, especially with kids.

  • Caroline says:

    I live in a country where home help / childcare is relatively inexpensive BUT still obviously not free if it’s to be reasonable quality, and so we have someone full time who helps with the 3 kids and does the vast majority of the cleaning and housework. Yes. I know. Spoilt. HOWEVER. I have come to realise that this lady, who we love, makes all of our lives so much easier. I work from home and that means that technically we shouldn’t need someone full-time, but how great it is not to have to haul all 3 kids every time I need to go and do errands, to be able to do the monthly grocery shop without 3 kids… and then there’s the little matter of term-time school wrangling. It helps to know there’s someone there much of the time when I have to be elsewhere with one or the other.

    I think frugality is a mind-set of getting best value, not necessarily denying oneself things that make one’s life easier and happier. Thus we do shop around and order bulk boxes of disposable nappies. It costs nothing extra and they get delivered to our house AND the cost per nappy is markedly reduced… and we never unexpectedly run out. Win! I cook frugally and we rarely eat out, no, this doesn’t mean eating rubbish processed food, but it does mean utilising cheaper cuts of meat, and going to the bargain veg and fruit place. The crock pot is my friend! It’s all about what matters to you and what you can comfortably afford without going into debt, and ideally putting something aside / paying off any already-accrued debt. We’re all different. For some, take-out twice a week is very important, great for them, in this country it’s very expensive and not a priority for us. Never feel guilt for being successful enough to make choices that suit you, even when it might be a ”luxury”. To you, it’s worth it. You’ve considered your options and live within your means… definitely winning!

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